It really was. And I have just ordered Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Americas and it discusses the Americas — both of them — and Haiti; Frederick Douglass apparently said he was more Haitian than North American, and Afro-Latin Americans were dis-identifying from Blackness so as to join the nation — or not.
The vanguardias came out of this; their writers grew up in this, and Europe was more secondary than we have been taught so far.
In class, we said Villaverde was trying to teach his readers how to read or interpret the character, Cecilia. The characters in the novel cannot discern her race unless they have historical and geneaological information about her, but the narrator is very much invested in the possibility of our discerning it visually, and continuing to discern it.